GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Egg prices have been on the rise for the past year. Supply could not keep up with the consumer’s demand during the holiday season and made the supply eggs even more scarce. With Easter coming up, the prices of eggs are still high. However, the USDA says egg prices are slowly coming down.
The main two causes of the high prices of eggs have been attributed to avian influenza and inflation. David Anderson, Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, Bryan-College Station said, “inflationary pressure and the worst avian flu outbreak in the U.S. history have combined to send egg prices upward over much of the last year.”
According to information from Texas A&M AgriLife, the USDA-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service stated that approximately 48 million birds have been affected by the avian flu. These birds affected by the illness include broiler chickens, egg-laying chickens and turkeys. Forty-six states have reported losses in their poultry to the virus. In December, 43 million egg laying hens were eliminated from the flock.
Hens that lay eggs are most at risk because they go through a longer production process than broiler chickens, in turn puts them at a higher risk of catching the disease. According to the USDA report, the losses were much lower than the losses in January of 2022 by 29 percent. According to Anderson, the avian flu struck at a bad time because egg layer numbers were already low. Profit incentives have been put into place to push farmers to increase flock numbers, however, the disease is still present and making it difficult to a regular production level.
“We’ve seen producers respond by building back the flock numbers, but farms are still getting wiped out. They were up to 308 million by December, but it’s still two steps forward, one step back,” Anderson said.
However, avian flu illnesses seem to be lightening up.
“In the absence of new avian influenza cases, supply will gradually increase over the next several months,” Maro Ibarburu, an associate scientist with the Egg Industry Center said. “Egg Industry Center projections estimate the flock size would increase 11 million laying hens from January 1st (306 million) to April 1st (317 million). This projection includes a lot of uncertainty especially with the unknown disruption factor created by HPAI. We simply can’t predict how many laying hens may be involved if outbreaks continue.”
Inflation has hit the consumers of this country hard for the past few years. The price of eggs has increased during the past year due not only to avian flu, but inflation.
Although, consumers may see some relief at the grocery store. Forbes reported, CPI Inflation hit its highest rate of 9 percent last June, then it continued to fall for six months to 6.5 percent. Core PCE inflation hit its highest rate of 5.4 percent last February and the current rate is 4.4 percent. The recent rates indicate that inflation is cooling off and may provide some relief for consumers.
Easter egg prices
As Easter approaches, many consumers will be buying eggs more than usual.
“Wholesale prices continue to rise, which indicates retail egg prices have not peaked. The teetering flock numbers couldn’t come at a worse time for consumers,” Anderson said, adding that, “the January USDA egg report showed prices were steady to slightly lower than December, but yearly prices for eggs often peaks each spring due to Easter holiday egg hunts and baking.
“We have a built-in holiday-driven demand for table eggs. That demand bump is on the horizon, but the higher prices are also a signal to consumers to use less, so it will be interesting to see if there will be a demand adjustment for Easter.”
In regard to upcoming Easter egg prices, Ibarburu said, “it is impossible to predict egg prices for Easter. Egg prices depend on both supply and demand. The demand tends to shift faster than the speed of supply changes. We expect the demand to be strong at Easter, but we don’t know how strong. Egg prices also depend on supply.”
According to the USDA, consumers continue to purchase eggs even though prices are extremely high. The department said in its “Shell Egg Demand Indicator” that wholesale rates for cartoned eggs are going lower on light to moderate offerings and growing supplies. The demand for cartoned eggs is light to moderate. Movement for the eggs is slow but going up to moderate.